The date palm, which was recognised by UNESCO on Wednesday, has for centuries played an important role in the establishment and growth of civilisations in the hot and dry regions of the Arab world. Now date palm-related knowledge, traditions and practices have been inscribed on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
"Date palms gather in oases of different densities within desert areas indicating the presence of water levels suitable for irrigation," according to a nomination put forward by 14 countries -- Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. As a result, this aided mankind in settling down despite harsh conditions," said the document.
Probably most ancient cultivated tree
According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, the date palm is probably the most ancient cultivated tree. It was grown as early as 4,000 BC and used for the construction of the moon god temple near Ur in southern Iraq -- the ancient region of Mesopotamia.
"The populations of the submitting states have been associated with the date palm tree for centuries as it aided them in the construction of civilisation," they said in the nomination. "Historical research and various antiquities excavations have resulted in the plant's significant cultural and economic status in numerous regions such as Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and the Arab Gulf."
The ancient crop also faces some modern challenges. Gulf countries have fought hard to eradicate the red palm weevil, which originally came from Asia and was first detected in the region in the 1980s.